The UC-Berkeley study only looks at participation in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; if it included all government programs, such as child-care subsidies and reduced price school lunches, the total would be higher. That's because fast food restaurants pay wages so low that even the families of full-time fast food workers rely on public programs—the median income for people working more than 10 hours a week 27 or more weeks per year in nonmanagerial fast food jobs is $8.69 an hour.
The companies benefiting from all that low-wage labor and the food stamps and health care assistance needed for workers to get by are doing just fine. Last year, the 10 largest fast food companies earned $7.44 billion in profits, paid their top executives $52.7 million, and distributed $7.7 billion in dividends and buybacks, according to NELP. Meanwhile: